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As my new start-up starts to take flight I thought I’d share some of my lessons from nearly 20 years of  growing businesses, and how I’m applying them now. They’re taken from my free book which you can request here.

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When it comes to hiring people, I’ve made some of the worst mistakes going.

How could I – or anyone – resist someone that…

  • Looks great on paper
  • Oozes self-confidence
  • Talks GREAT talk

Well, I definitely got this one wrong…

I thought the person I had hired was one of the best salespeople, with all the attributes above, from one of the biggest protection insurance brokerages.

He had even won holidays for being their top salesperson.

But it was bad, really bad

Within the first 2 weeks of him joining our team, I very quickly realised my mistake. He asked across the floor which insurer he could use to get “standard rates” for a customer… with angina!*

*for non-insurance people that is a very, very bad thing indeed and NOT something you could ever expect in any salesperson, let alone a top one. Says as much about the broker he was working for as him!

Could you really sleep at night knowing such things were happening in your business?!

I made sure he was back out the door as quickly as he had entered. But this scenario is a great example of just how easy it can be to hire the wrong people, and for the wrong reasons.

The ones to watch out for, the most dangerous salespeople, are the ones that sell themselves better than anything else.

They typically put on an intriguing act of bravado, arrogance or perhaps even charity; but underneath they’re just out for themselves.

What’s worse, you may ask?

Well, more often than not, they are VERY good at cheating the system – including yours! Something you’ll discover soon enough, should you not deal with it as swiftly and quickly as you can.

Trust me. You DEFINITELY don’t want these kinds of people involved in your business.

And just be very aware. If a salesperson like the ones we’ve been talking about reach a MANAGEMENT position, then you’ve really got your work cut out. I’ve made that mistake before too.

My worst mistake of all…

…was to allow one of these types of sales people to run my business after my son had passed away unexpectedly. To be totally honest looking back I wasn’t of sound mind; I had found my 11 year old boy dead in his bed and was really struggling to keep going each day, let alone run a business!

All seemed to go well at first, but as time went on with hindsight it seems he found it harder and harder to deliver according to pre-agreed standards and processes. He could have admitted to me that he couldn’t hit the mark, but of course honesty never plays with these types of sales people.

Who are they selling to? Your customers, or you?

Instead he lied through his teeth to me, making the numbers “on top” look good and putting on a good “front”. But underneath he was pulling out all the systems and controls just to hit sales, and allowing the business to rot.

When I discovered this, he admitted it at first but then proceeded to work against me at trying to turn the business around. I worked harder than I ever have to turn it around but ended up losing my business, my livelihood, my home (for the 2nd time in three years) and every penny I had ever earned.

My best business lesson – trust your gut!

Now I think back, I always knew in my gut he wasn’t right from the first day I hired him. I should have trusted my gut, but I prioritised my desire for sales.

It’s best to nip these things in the bud as quickly as you can if you pick up an issue. Most importantly, trust your gut! Act swiftly and decisively if you feel there is an issue. If you feel something is amiss, then act on it.

Start hiring – and firing – based on values, and not just someone’s ability to sell.

Some salespeople (not my kind of salespeople, and probably not yours either, if you’re reading this post) are prepared to gamble with a customer’s financial security and prospective future for a chance at increasing their commission cheque.

Salespeople that find it easy to lie to customers are not the kind of people you need in your business. How you do you know they’re not lying to you?

So skills and experience are not usually the problem. It is a fundamental difference in values and ethics.

Think about WHO you are looking for when hiring, as well as WHAT.

Skills can be taught, and experience gained – but values are a defining part of someone’s personality and almost impossible to change or un-teach.

It was a very expensive lesson for me, and I hope you learn it before it really hurts!

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Luke Ashworth is the founder of Adviser.ai. For more information on how to build a great protection business, request his free book, the 16 biggest mistakes protection distributors make.

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